The car that comes to pick them up is a nondescript blue sedan with Louisiana plates. The driver dresses a lot like Captain Snow in a black suit with black glasses. He’s a man of few words. He doesn’t bother to introduce himself, only asking if they have everything they need. Once they’re situated in the car he speeds down the back roads near their house like he’s on the freeway. The sisters exchange nervous glances, though their nerves aren’t entirely due to his driving. A week ago they knew where their lives were going. Now they don’t even know where they’re being taken.
Reaching the nearest airport, Melissa’s mouth falls open. The plane before them’s a tiny private one and not at all what she expected. Tara flew back and forth from her single year of college but Melissa’s never been on a plane. She’s nervous about any plane but all the stories she’s heard about turbulence in small aircraft leave her shaking.
The stairs leading inside are narrow and there isn’t room for her crutches. At first she declines offers of help from her sister and the driver but realizing there’s no other choice she relents with a grunt. She wraps her arm around Tara’s shoulder and uses the support to slowly hop up.
Inside they find themselves in a small tube with red carpeting. There’s only four seats and Captain Snow’s sitting in one with a glass of wine. “Glad your trip went well ladies.” Noticing Melissa needing help up, he jumps up to offer a hand. “Sorry about the accommodations, this is the plane we had in the area though.” Tara and Melissa try to salute but he waves them off. “In our group we don’t hang on all the procedures, you can give that a rest if you want. Remember it for when the big wigs show up but day to day there’s no need. You ladies want a drink? I brought some excellent champagne for the flight. It’s going to be a couple hours.”
Looking at each other nervously, the sisters shake their heads. “Neither of us is old enough sir.”
Snow slaps his knee. “Shit, I know that. We’re not in a restaurant though and I don’t care. I’m not going to get you drunk or anything but these little planes can have a bit of a kick and a drink to take the edge off doesn’t hurt.”
Pointing out Melissa’s medicine can’t be mixed with alcohol, the sisters still decline. Tara wants a glass but she’ll feel guilty having one when her sister can’t. The driver of the car climbs into the plane and closes the door behind him. Once everything’s sealed he disappears into the cockpit. “Is he coming with us?” Melissa’s still standing and pointing at the cockpit.
Finishing his drink, Snow starts to pour another. “We kind of need him unless one of you knows how to fly a plane. Our little organization still has a pretty bare bones staff outside of the science nerds. Jay’s a master of many disciplines, not much of a people person but useful.”
Taking seats next to each other, the sisters clutch each other’s hands until their knuckles turn white during takeoff. Tara’s ears pop and suddenly hearing feels wrong. She experienced the same the last time she flew so she knows it isn’t abnormal but it feels worse than last time. When they level out the turbulence dies down but the plane never feels entirely stable. She really wishes she took Snow up on that drink.
When he feels the plane’s calm enough Snow gets up and stumbles to the back of the cabin where a briefcase sits. He opens it and pulls a few folders out. When he returns he hands one to each of them. Removing his sunglasses, he slips on a pair of reading glasses which Melissa finds hilarious. She can’t stop apologizing as he glares at her. “Ladies, we have a lot of paperwork to sign before you can enter our base or even know where it is. You’re basically agreeing that you’ll complete your term, that you understand how confidential this all is. Fairly standard stuff but we need it on paper.”
Skimming the fine print doesn’t provide any revelations so both of them scratch their name out again and again. When they’re done they look up to find Snow has already changed back into his sunglasses. The reading glasses are nowhere in sight yet he never stood up.
“Welcome to Project All American ladies. That’s our name if you were wondering. You get more details now. The All American Formula is something our government’s been working on since the forties. We’ve tried it many times but never felt it was ready for human testing. Too many risks. We think they’re all ironed out but only certain people’s genetics are compatible. When we arrive you’ll both go in for some much more in depth testing. We’ll announce our choices for the main team in a few days.” Melissa raises a hand. “You’re not in school Ms. Chance. If you have something to say, go ahead.”
“Sorry sir, I just wanted to ask how the team’s going to be chosen.”
“That’s an excellent question, no need to be sorry. It’s going to be based primarily on degree of compatibility. There’s a decent chance all twenty five of you can take it but the closer the fit, the better the odds are that there won’t be any negative side effects. We don’t expect any but we want to be cautious.”
“Can you give us more details about what this will do?” Tara listens to her sisters question and feels pride. She’s remembering to ask everything Tara would otherwise ask. Melissa needs this more so she’ll let her lead the way.
“I can give you some. Your muscles will strengthen to an extraordinary degree. That’s almost certain which means you won’t get tired. You’re going to be incredibly strong, incredibly fast. Probably run over a hundred miles an hour. Lift hundreds if not thousands of pounds. You’ll be nearly invulnerable. Your skin will be so strong bullets, guns, even explosions won’t be a threat. Except your eyes, they don’t seem effected for some reason. Your hearing, smell, sight, all that will improve. You’ll be able to jump really high and really far. That’s a start. Other effects can vary a lot by person but it’s going to do a lot.”
The sisters sit there with their jaws resting on their chests. The more specifics they hear, the more this sounds both exciting and terrifying. Melissa seems frozen so Tara decides to take over for now. “Where are we going anyway?”
“You’ll like this. We’re actually based in the middle of Kansas of all places. Non descript little place. Our job once we have the program running will be to handle major national security issues. Being based in the middle of the country makes us uniquely situated to respond to any location. Well, except Alaska or Hawaii but who’s going to have issues there?”
“Doesn’t a lot of stuff happen on the coasts? We haven’t had a lot of emergencies in Louisiana over the years.”
“A lot does but nowhere near all. Besides, which coast would we pick? If something happens on the opposite one we’d take forever to get there. This isn’t perfect but it’s the best choice we decided. When we arrive I’ll show you to our base of operations.”
The rest of the flight’s non eventful. Snow drinks wine and offers stories about his past, most of which he leaves crucial details out of. The sisters both read the books they’ve brought with them for awhile but they eventually abandon them. At one point they’re reduced to playing tic tac toe to pass the time. They’re all relieved when after nearly five hours Jay pokes his head out and announces they’re getting ready to descend.
The landing’s almost as terrifying as the flying but soon they’re thankful to be on the ground. Tara helps her sister slowly descend the plane’s stairs. A non descript car almost identical to the one they took in Louisiana’s waiting for them. The only difference she notices is the plates are now for Kansas.